Why is organic cotton fabric better
Todays cotton is the most popular crop for fibers, covering 2,5% of the cultivated land. It’s the area bigger than Germany! Yet cotton cultivation uses as much as 16% world's pesticides, it is more than any other crop. What does that mean for us and our environment? Well, nothing good. There are multiple risks of using chemicals on such a huge scale and these extend far beyond environmental risks only.
Cotton is produced in multiple stages. Before transforming the conventional fibers into the final fabric, cotton goes through a complex manufacturing process. After ginning, the fibres are cleaned, carded or combed, spun into yarn, coated with starches or chemicals, woven or knitted into fabric, cleaned up from their natural coating, chemically bleached, immersed in caustic soda, chemically dyed or printed, chemically finished for further properties, and finally tailored. Long story short - large amounts of chemicals of various toxicity and hazardousness are being used throughout the whole process. Sounds bad? Add large transport distances to a different processing locations around the world and you get a product leaving a very big ecological footprint.
Production of conventional cotton fabric pollutes the air and surface waters, decreases biodiversity and shifts equilibrium of ecosystems. With such an extensive use of chemicals at every stage of the process it can obviously irritate consumers' skin too, causing allergies, eczema or even cancer! So don’t be deceived by “natural fiber” rhetorics. Conventional cotton is not as natural as it sounds.
There is another aspect of cotton cultivation that has negative impact not only on the environment but sadly on farmers’ livelihood. It affects mostly small farmers in developing countries. Many of them fall ill or die due to a lack of equipment and knowledge about how to handle pesticides properly. There are a lot of farmers falling into debt because the cost of cotton production is often higher than the actual income from cotton harvest. It reduces families’ food security since in bad years they are unlikely to have enough money to buy food - a problem that people in developed countries often don’t even know. Cotton processing puts workers at risk, too. Workers are paid below the minimum wages and have to work more than 50 hours a week. They are often exposed to hazardous chemicals used for cotton dyeing or finishing. Sadly, it is still common to find children employed in cotton production. There are even countries, where the government closes schools down and sends children to pick cotton in the pesticide-contaminated fields. Quite shocking, right?
We can vote with our dollars and change things, though. And things are changing. Organic cotton is getting more popular among both producers and consumers. Worldwide production of organic cotton is growing at a rate of more than 50% per year. So who is organic cotton really better for?
Better for the environment
Certified organic cotton is grown without the use of any synthetic chemicals. It promotes and enhances biodiversity, soil’s fertility and water management.
Better for farmers
Organic cotton production enhances farmers health and improves their economic situation and food security. Farmers get easier access to markets, they can count on training and education.
Better for consumers
When you buy organic cotton, you can be sure you are buying a healthy product. All clear standards and labels provide traceability of your product. Moreover, if doing good to yourself isn’t a reason enough, you also have a positive impact on the environment and the producers livelihoods.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading standard for organic fibres, including both ecological and social criteria. The standard covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution of all textiles. It provides world-wide recognized requirements, so that the end consumer can get a credible assurance.
At Kaliko we want to be as transparent as possible, too. We only use GOTS certified organic cotton coming from Turkey. It is important to us, to understand the whole impact of our choices - the impact on the environment, producers and consumers. We are sure the products we are offering are of a value to all parties involved. We just couldn’t do it any other way.
You can find Kaliko slow-made products here.
And if you need more information about how our bags are made, you can go to this blog post, where I share more about what goes into a sustainably made product.